March is MS Awareness Month

March is MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Awareness month in Ohio. It is a designation that recognizes the very high incidence of MS in our state – one of the highest in the nation.

More than 18,000 people known to have MS live here. Many others have MS and have yet to know it. This “unknowing” is the main reason for a month to help people become aware of this potentially crippling disease – its symptoms are often attributed to other problems – so they can be begin to receive treatment as soon as possible.

Whatever it is that brings MS to more people in Northeast climates is still unknown, as is much about MS in general. While there is no cure for MS, a number of medications have been developed over the years that can help lessen its effects on its victims. The sooner people know they have the disease, the better the effect of the treatments for it.

MS is a chronic disease that attacks the myelin sheath that surrounds our nerves affecting the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves). The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), disrupting or killing internal communications. Signs and/or symptoms of nerve damage may include: numbness or weakness in one or more limbs; partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time; double vision or blurring of vision; tingling or pain in parts of your body; electric shock-like sensations that occur with certain head movements; tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait; fatigue; and dizziness.       

Research and experience in treating those with the disease have identified four distinct courses of the disease: Relapsing-Remitting, Primary Progressive, Secondary Progressive and Progressive Relapsing.  

While we did not know what type of MS my wife, Elaine, had when she was diagnosed in 1967 – “No way to tell,” her neurologist told us – her experience over the past almost 50 years with it would indicate she has had relapsing/remitting. She has endured numerous attacks on various nerves but so far all of these have eventually gone into remission, leaving behind the damage they did while active. (Overall, Elaine, despite MS, has lived a very productive life, raising four children and me – an inspiration to us and those that know her.)

Another name for MS might be the “Uncertain Disease” – no one ever knows how it will act for sure. The uncertainly also makes research very difficult – is a treatment working or did the disease just happen to go into remission? Such remissions often lead people to believe things are helping when in fact they are not doing anything.

Chances are that you know someone that has MS and knows they have it, but chances are also good that you know some who has it and doesn’t know it. Anyone with the prevailing symptoms noted above should be sure to see a doctor.

For information and help, please call: 1-800-667-7131 or visit www.MSohiobuckeye.org.

Mel Maurer

Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.

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Volume 6, Issue 5, Posted 9:57 AM, 03.04.2014